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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer Orchid Fragrances

It is fascinating to observe all the different ways in which visitors and staff like to experience the orchids here. Many people like to experience the flowers through the lens of their camera, lingering on visual details. Others visit each and every flower, inhaling deeply. For connoisseurs of fragrance, summer is without a doubt the best time to visit the Orchid Center. Here are a few of the best this week.

Phalaenopsis bellina is perhaps the most fragrant of the moth orchid species. "Fruit Loop orchid" is the common name suggested by Eric Christenson, the taxonomist who separated bellina from the closely related violacea on the basis of fragrance and morphological differences. Its fragrance is blend of many compounds, including geraniol, which has a rose-like scent attractive to bees; and linalool, a floral/spicy fragrance. The quantity and quality of an orchid fragrance can be dependent on the time of day, and you may notice that our bellina seedlings are almost scentless in the early morning and very fragrant later in the day.

Anguloa uniflora, one of our tulip orchid species, smells like wintergreen, an unexpected but wonderful pairing. Wintergreen is the fragrance associated with methyl salicylate, a volatile compound that is a common component in floral fragrances that attract male Euglossine bees. The composition of the fragrance of an orchid species can vary from plant to plant to a striking degree. If you take a moment to smell several of our unifloras, you will notice that one of our accessions produces an especially powerful wintergreen fragrance, the others less so.

I'm not going to talk about the slug who brazenly made his way to the top of a floral bract while I was composing this shot, except to say that he is no longer with us.

Anguloa virginalis has a sweet, but somewhat medicinal fragrance composed of 1.8-cineole, limonene, myrcene and pinene. By mid afternoon, our three plants can fill the back of the High Elevation House with an invisible fragrance plume.

Peristeria lindenii was here and gone in a flash typical of short-lived Stanhopeinae flowers, but with a complex fragrance unlike any other I that I know of -like a fruit salad over a layer of eucalyptus (cineole).

The practice of dipping your nose in every beautiful orchid flower will eventually yield a bad result. Lovely though it is, Bulbophyllum echinolabium produces the kind of stench that might make you think about alerting the Public Health Department, but only when you get really close. It reels in unsuspecting people the same way it would lure a fly, with brilliant red colors and long wafting sepals, until nose meets flower, then there are cries of outrage and indignation. Don't say I didn't warn you.



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Greens of Summer

Green is a richly varied corner of the floral color spectrum. In summer it is a part of the spectrum my eye rests upon with deep appreciation. Lime, kiwi and melon hues -I think of them as a cool dessert after a steady diet of overheated tropical colors. Let's take a walk through the greenhouse and savor some of the greens.

First is a real stunner. Clowesia russelliana is a frothy extravaganza of icy mint green flowers. If you look closely, you can see a touch of pink in the petals and sepals.

It produced far and away the best fragrance of the week -a wonderful mixture of vanilla, ginger and eucalyptus.

Male Catasetum pileatum flowers are a gorgeous creamy green. It's not very often that we produce female flowers (on the left) and male flowers (on the right) simultaneously on a Catasetum, so I was quick to get a capsule on this plant.

Notice the subtle chartreuse tinge on the lip of these truffle-shaped Catasetum luridum flowers.

The glossy lip of Catasetum expansum looks as though it has been dipped in egg yolk.

One of the pleasures of walking through the Orchid Display House is discovering a delightful color combination. Lycaste oculata with its kiwi green sepals and pure white petals seems to my eye to be the perfect summer pairing of colors. It's a shame that the greens are often overlooked. Be sure not to miss them on  your next visit to the Fuqua Orchid Center.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stanhopea costaricensis

July is just a little early for stanhopeas here. It will be another month before the flooodgates open. In the meantime, we had a magnificent Stanhopea costaricensis in flower in the Orchid Display House last week. The fragrance was just wonderful, with a hint of vanilla.

Our Stanhopea costaricensis  has deep red splashes of varying sizes on the lip and column and some fascinating leopard spots on the petals and sepals.

It's flower isn't quite as big as the really big boys- Stanhopea tigrina, embreei and platyceras, but big enough that I had to back the camera way up in order to get the entire flower and pedicel in the frame.

Seen from above, the elongated lip has a diamond shaped hypochile.

The column has prominent wings.

Stanhopea costaricensis grows as an epiphyte in Central America between 500 and 1500 meters elevation. It grow without any problems in our intermediate greenhouse (60º night minimum) in 60% shade. And it makes an impressive specimen sized (12") basket with outstandingly fragrant flowers.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Two Miniatures

Two of our miniature orchids are generating a lot of excitement this week. Dyakia hendersoniana, all of five inches tall, has the kind of electric fuchsia coloring that is visible across the greenhouse.

Dyakia hendersoniana grows as an epiphyte in primary and old secondary forests from 0 to 700 meters elevation in areas of high rainfall on the island of Borneo. The column and lip are white, and the lip has an elongated spur.

Since my reference states that this is now a very rare species and endangered in the wild, I took this minute specimen to my office for pollinating. Tiny orchid flowers with spurs are (for me at least) one of the supreme challenges in orchid pollination. Removing the tiny anther cap and maneuvering the two pollinia into the stigmatic cavity without dropping them into the spur or onto my desk requires enormous patience and a steady hand. Usually, after I've dropped a few and I finally have the pollinia correctly positioned, they perversely refuse to release from the tip of my pencil. I am, as ever, amazed that insects can effortlessly accomplish this.

Pleurothallis tripterantha makes a perfect tiny specimen plant with pendant chains of honey colored flowers. It is an undemanding little plant that seems to always be in flower (perfect, in other words). We grow our plant in an intermediate temperature greenhouse in 80% shade. Pleurothallis tripterantha is widely distributed from Costa Rica through northern South America in wet montane forests at 900 to 2700 meters elevation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anguloa cliftonii

Even if it weren't scented like an ice cream sundae, this pale yellow tulip orchid with red marbled petals and gracefully curved sepals would still be one of our most striking species. But best of all is what's hidden inside.

As I unwrapped the layers of sepals and petals, the sight of the lip actually made me laugh.

All anguloas have a hinged lip to facilitate pollination, but cliftonii's lip has something special in the way of ornamentation.

The lip is a miniature bowl with flared edges, and its ornate apex arches backwards as Henry Oakeley writes in his book Lycaste, Ida and Anguloa, "like the handle of a ewer." Ewer?

That sent me on a Google search. Above is the lip rotated 180º and flipped horizontally, looking like a tiny pitcher with a handle, a ewer. How cool is that?

The apex of the lip is the source of the fragrance, which is highly attractive to at least one species of Euglossine bees. It is angled toward the column, so that the bee's weight causes it to tilt toward the anther cap and pollinarium. Upon contact the pollinarium is attached to the bee's abdomen.

Our tulip orchids are off to a slow start this summer, but I expect there will be many for you to see in the Orchid Display House in July. They are wonderful!

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Vanilla Scented Tulip Orchid


Vanilla was not what I was expecting to smell yesterday when watering the Anguloa bench. If anything, I would have expected some foetid smells from the adjacent Nepenthes, quietly digesting their insect soup. Vanilla just isn't a fragrance I associate with Tulip Orchids. But no mistake, a little searching among the big accordion pleated leaves brought me to this guy, Anguloa cliftonii. At close range the fragrance was the familiar camphor/cineole common to many Euglossine bee fragrances, but with sweet overtones of vanilla. This is only the second time we have flowered cliftonii. Either I wasn't paying attention last time, or I caught it at the wrong time of day. What a treat.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Morning in the Orchid Center

We rotate weekend watering and it's generally a mad two hour rush to finish before the doors open at 9 am, so there's not much time for picture taking. This morning, however, I was determined, and grabbed my camera while the ponds were filling. Of course the laelias had to have their pictures taken first.

A flush of flowers and new shoots on Lycaste consobrina glowed in the early light. They are growing nicely in the crevices of rocks in our Mexico bed.

Paphiopedilulm superbiens has an enormous plum colored pouch that makes the petals look small by comparison.

One of our best kept secrets: Ionbulbon munificum. If the flowers aren't cool enough for you, check out the shaggy pseudoboulbs.

That long fringe of fibers just slays me. I'm completely smitten with this plant.

The acinetas are still coming on strong. They are beautiful, though none has a fragrance that can match the sweetest of the stanhopeas. Acineta mireyae looked lovely with a backdrop of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

A cloud of Oncidium phymatochilum flowers floated above the pathway. We have about 50 seedling offspring of this plant approaching flowering size in the back up greenhouses. They will make a nice show next summer.

The (unsprung!) trigger hair in the center of the Catasetum expansum flower was ready for action. The flowers have a fragrance that no perfumer will ever bottle: dill pickles and spearmint.

June is a terrific month to visit the Fuqua Orchid Center. Stop by and see us!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cattleya intermedia


Flowering for the first time and making its debut this week in the Orchid Display House is a lovely Cattleya intermedia that we received a couple of years ago from the Brazilian nursery, Floralia. It is a horticultural variety called "marginata" that is characterized by a rich violet color on the frontal lobe and the margins of the lateral lobes of the lip. Although the plant is about half the size of the adjacent Laelia purpuratas and almost literally in their shade, it's hard to miss. It's exceptionally vibrant. And just plain cute.

Cattleya intermedia grows as an epiphyte in Paraguay, Uruguay and the southern Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where it favors coastal or stream-side swamps from sea level to 300 meters, often in full sun. When our plants are not on display, we grow them in very bright light in our warm greenhouse.
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